NEW DELHI: Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi affirmed the strong relations between India and Kuwait and expressed her keenness to seek ways to strengthen and develop these ties into broader areas to achieve common interests of both countries. Kuwaiti Ambassador to India Jassem Ibrahim Al-Najim said that this year marks the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, expressing his hope that these close relations between the two countries will witness growth and development in the coming years.

He praised the ‘Project Mausam’ which aims to restore communication between the countries of the Indian Ocean, including the countries in the Arabian Gulf, which will also contribute to strengthening cultural relations between India and Kuwait. This came during a ceremony held by the Kuwait Embassy in New Delhi on the occasion marking the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The event was attended by a number of officials in the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of heads of missions accredited in New Delhi. It is worth noting that Meenakshi Lekhi supervises the ‘Project Mausam’ which was launched in June 2014 in Qatar with an aim of creating a comprehensive database and electronic platform for UNESCO on sea routes, linking UNESCO cultural agreements with the World Heritage Convention. It also promotes research in sustainable tourism, heritage development, and highlights other cultural legacies across the Indian Ocean region.

India, GCC ties

In another development, India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have agreed to deepen cooperation in several areas of mutual interest. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Secretary from the External Affairs Ministry Ausaf Sayeed headed the Indian delegation in the first round of India-GCC Senior Officers Meeting held in Saudi city of Riyadh. The GCC delegation was led by Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations, GCC Abdulaziz Bin Hamad Al-Owaishaq.

Both sides agreed for early finalization of India-GCC Free Trade Agreement while conveying happiness over the progress in trade and investment. The Indian official appealed for more collaboration between the two countries in renewable energy, food security, health, IT sector and counter terrorism.

“Both sides proposed formation of Joint Working Groups to cater to particular areas of cooperation between India and GCC countries. These joint working groups would be headed by experts and would ensure regular and continuous progress across priority sectors,” the statement said. Indian and GCC officials also hailed the progress in relations between India-GCC countries built on historical relationship, growing trade and investment, and presence of an 8.5 million Indians in the region.

“GCC as a trade bloc is the largest trade partner to India with a total trade of 154 billion dollars in 2021-22,” it said adding people-to-people ties need to be further enhanced. The discussion also touched upon regional issues and both sides looked forward for early convention of India-GCC TROIKA meeting at Foreign Minister Level. The meeting, which saw participation from all GCC countries, was pursuant to a MoU inked on India-GCC Mechanism of Consultation during Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visit to Riyadh in September 2022. - KUNA